Janakpur … The Place of Peace and Power
The city of Janakpur around 300 kilometers (185 miles) southeast of Kathmandu is doubly famous as the birthplace of the Hindu goddess Sita, as well as being the site where she was married to Lord Rama.
Janakpur was its own kingdom, known as Mithila just a few centuries ago and today its traditional fame as Mithila art. For Hindus, Janakpur is very important: the place where Goddess Sita was born, and married to Lord Rama, the most beloved Hindu couple. Sita’s father, Lord Janak, is considered to be one of the greatest gurus (teachers) in the universe—even Lords Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma take council from him – thus making Janakpur a place where all Hinduism’s gods visit. The countless temples, 52 sagars or ponds. The main Ram-Janaki Temple reflects the Rajasthani style, the streets the same, much like walking through Jaipur in Rajasthan.
According to the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, the original city of Janakpur was named after King Janak of the Mithila kingdom. Janak found the baby Sita in a furrow of a field and raised her as his daughter. When Sita (also called Janaki) was about sixteen, the king announced that she could be married by whoever was able to string the divine bow of Shiva. Though many royal suitors tried, only Lord Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, was successful. And not only did he string the bow, he also snapped it in two. Thus, Lord Rama won the hand of Sita.
Historical sources indicate that the Mithila Kingdom controlled a large part of northern India between the tenth and third centuries BC when it came under the control of the Mauryan Empire (321 to 185 BC). The two great Mauryan emperors, Chandragupta and Ashoka, favored the religions of Jainism and Buddhism, and both the great saints Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism, and Vardamana Mahavira, the 24th and final Tirthankara (an enlightened sage) of the Jain religion, are said to have lived in Mithila/Janakpur.
What else to do here other than religion? Well, to be honest, it’s all very simple here, the accommodation is limited, and there are no fancy restaurants selling pastas, so this may well decide the time spent. The meethai or Indian sweets available are beyond compare, so tasting these delicacies can be a journey in itself. Indian style teas and foods such as thali (Indian dal-bhaat) is for others, a good reason. As well as hunting down the childlike Mithila art—classically adorning outer walls of homes. In essence, coming to Janakpur is a way to experience an almost exotic India within Nepal’s confines. Sadly though, the un-cleanliness and the mosquitoes (present year round) will probably drive you out quick enough.
Janakpur is a bit of a journey to get to from Kathmandu. If going in or out of east India this is a great reason to stop here. Or, if touring the eastern Terai, then by all means put Janakpur on your list. If you enjoy religion and festivals then the festival of Bibaha Panchami (the wedding anniversary of Sita-Ram), celebrated around December, should not be missed. The bus journey takes between 10-12 hours from Kathmandu by passenger bus at night, 6-8 hours by cabs or private car at day time and by flight it just 25 minutes, so travel by road is best so far because of great views of mountain.
Nepal’s only operating train station, with a direct line to India is here, there’s also an immigration office processing visas, making one more reason to visit. If you have time, take a journey out to Dhanusha Dham, a temple 15km outside Janakpur. It is said that an arrow fired by Lord Rama, from a bow gifted to Lord Janak by Lord Shiva landed here. The story goes that Rama was the only man ever able to pull the bow’s string and discharge it and it was the way for Lord Janak to know the man who should marry his daughter. He released the arrow from the Ram-Janaki Temple; it flew 15km and left what seems to be molten earth where it landed so that the places you would be interested.